HARRIMAN (WATE) - The American tradition of going to a drive-in theater is on the brink of disappearing forever.
In many parts of the country, drive-ins have disappeared, but here in East Tennessee there are still a few in operation.
The Parkway Drive-In in Maryville and Midtown Drive-In in Harriman have been around for years.
Doug Freeman, owner of both, says new technology is forcing him to make some tough decisions. He says 2013 will be the last time Midtown Drive-In will be open.
He released this statement on their website: "We at the Midtown wish to thank all of our loyal and dedicated customers that have supported us this year. We are closed for the 2013 season. Due to the movie industry's decision to quit making 35 MM film after 2013, the Midtown Drive-In will close as a theatre. If there is a few movie companies that by chance change their policy and do continue to distribute movies on film then we may can run a limited schedule in 2014. We will keep the web-site up until that time to see what our fate may be. Thanks to our many loyal customers for sharing the great time we had."
"It's kind of sad because we always used to come here, bring the kids and the grandkids," said movie goer Mark McCuen.
"I think everyone saw it coming," said movie goer Holly Grizzle. "I heard talk of the digital stuff."
Freeman had to close both locations earlier this year because film distributors were not putting new releases on 35mm film.
"The biggest challenge from going from conventional film to digital is the expense of the projection system for the theater," explained EON Entertainment CEO Chris Dotson.
Dotson's company helps companies make the change. He says it can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to make the conversion from film to digital, and for many private business owners, that price is hard to pay.
Freeman says, economically, he cannot afford to change both locations, and decided only to keep the Parkway Drive-In open.
He says attendance has been down at both locations, but Parkway Drive-In still remains the more popular one.
Dotson says there is a reason why everyone is going digital.
"The reason why everyone is converting from film to digital is economics really," he explained. "A digital print can cost you hundreds of dollars verses a film print that can cost you thousands of dollars."
Freeman says it will cost him $80,000 to make Parkway Drive-In digital. It will reopen in April 2014.
He still unsure what he is going to do with the Midtown location.
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